ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) -- Members of Maryland's travel and tourism businesses came together Tuesday outside the state house in Annapolis to rally for more funding for tourism marketing and to encourage more people to visit Maryland as the industry continues to recover from the pandemic.
"I think our industry was the first one to see the effects of the pandemic and we're likely going to be the last industry to fully recover," said Chris Riehl, Chair of the Maryland Tourism Coalition.
The coalition is pushing for state lawmakers to fund an additional $2 million to the tourism development board as proposed in Governor Larry Hogan's state budget which would help market the state to visitors and locals.
Advocates also said they would like to see additional aid and relief provided to parts of the industry that continue to be impacted by the pandemic.
"At the height of it, we had about 156,000 people out of work in tourism here in this state but still today we have about 45,000 people that are looking for work in the industry," said Tom Riford, the Maryland Assistant Secretary of the Division of Tourism, Film, and the Arts.
Another priority for the coalition is to get legislators to pass the Explore Maryland Tax Credit, which could give Marylanders a tax credit of up to $4,000 on their state income taxes for money they spend on in-state lodging and attractions.
"When you encourage someone [to vacation in Maryland], even if it's a staycation, that's great because they're spending their money here and they're investing in other local jobs, local businesses," said Kevin Atticks, Founder of Grow & Fortify, a group that supports Maryland craft breweries, wineries and agritourism.
Riehl told WJZ that many of their priorities have bi-partisan support.
"We think that all of our elected officials, regardless of political party, understand the importance of tourism and understand the importance of marketing our state," he said. "We're very hopeful and optimistic that marketing budget is approved and we're able to continue telling our story."
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